Civil rights and privacy groups set guidelines for body cameras

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis police will soon be strapped with body cameras, but there's growing concern on how the devices will be implemented.

MPD will start using body cameras, dash cameras and GPS in squad cars by September 1.

Right now, Mayor A C Wharton, attorneys and police are hammering out policies and procedures.
Civil rights and privacy groups nationwide got together, and released a list of what cities need to do to make sure body cameras are a tool of public accountability and transparency.
"It is paramount that your mayor take a look at the advocacy principles these civil rights and privacy organizations put together," said Scott Simpson who worked with nearly three dozen civil rights and privacy groups in Washington D.C. to generate the guidelines.
The suggestions include making sure officers can't view the footage before filing reports, you have access to the footage, and the policy is created in public.
"Our policy process is addressing all of those concerns," said Mayor Wharton. "Civil liberties groups are not saying don't do this. They are simply saying do it right, and we agree with that."

John Marek is on the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board and spent years fighting for body cameras.

"They are focusing on the exact issue they need to focus on now," said Marek as he read over the guidelines.

He said the city needs to make sure victims can access the footage, and their privacy is protected, but to keep in mind, these devices are just one step towards protecting you and the officer.

"Step one is body cameras. Step two is a stronger Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board.

Step three is making sure we get outside prosecutors to handle these cases, so it is a fair trial," said Marek.

Civil rights and privacy groups released the following guidelines:

1. Develop camera policies in public with the input of civil rights advocates and the local community.
Current policies must always be publicly available, and any policy changes must also be made in consultation with the community.
2. Commit to a set of narrow and well-defined purposes for which cameras and their footage may be used.
In particular, facial recognition and other biometric technologies must be carefully limited: if they are used together with body cameras, officers will have far greater visibility into heavily policed communities—where cameras will be abundant—than into other communities where cameras will be rare.
Such technologies could amplify existing disparities in law enforcement practices across communities.
3. Specify clear operational policies for recording, retention, and access, and enforce strict disciplinary protocols for policy violations.
While some types of law enforcement interactions (e.g., when attending to victims of domestic violence) may happen off-camera, the vast majority of interactions with the public—including all that involve the use of force—should be captured on video.
Departments must also adopt systems to monitor and audit access to recorded footage, and secure footage against unauthorized access and tampering.
4. Make footage available to promote accountability with appropriate privacy safeguards in place.
At a minimum: (1) footage that captures police use of force should be made available to the public and press upon request, and (2) upon request, footage should be made available in a timely manner to any filmed subject seeking to file a complaint, to criminal defendants, and to the next-of-kin of anyone whose death is related to the events captured on video.
Departments must consider individual privacy concerns before making footage available to broad audiences.
5. Preserve the independent evidentiary value of officer reports by prohibiting officers from viewing footage before filing their reports.
Footage of an event presents a partial—and sometimes misleading—perspective of how events unfolded.
Pre-report viewing could cause an officer to conform the report to what the video appears to show, rather than what the officer actually saw.
Signed by:
American Civil Liberties Union
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian Law Caucus
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Media Justice
ColorOfChange.org
Data & Society
Demand Progress
Demos
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Free Press
Hip Hop Caucus
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Martinez Street Women’s Center
May First/People Link
Media Alliance
Media Literacy Project
Media Mobilizing Project
Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
NAACP
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Association of Social Workers
National Council of La Raza
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Urban League
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Public Knowledge
Southwest Workers' Union
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center
Voices for Racial Justice
Working Narratives
Alvaro Bedoya, Executive Director, Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law*